Scaling up household adoption of clean energy is crucial in transitioning to a sustainable energy future. Rhode Island recently designed the Community Renewables Program to primarily bring solar energy to low-to-moderate income (LMI) households and renters. We surveyed 500 North Providence, RI, residents to examine what economic, psychological, and demographic factors explain household choice between installing solar panels on their property vs. subscribing to a community solar project.
Survey measures included economic factors such as (1) perceived costs, (2) perceived benefits, and (3) consumer novelty seeking; psychological factors 1) present bias, (2) risk-taking orientation and (3) personal experience of climate change; and demographic factors (1) dwelling type and (2) income. Respondents read descriptions of both residential and community solar programs and indicated their interest and preference for either program.
Preliminary data analysis (N=99) suggests that actual income-level, dwelling type and home ownership are unrelated to preference or interest in either program. However, those who are 1) concerned with perceived costs 2) risk takers, 3) present biased, and 4) novelty seekers are interested in the community solar program. Those interested in 1) increasing property value, 2) energy conservation and 3) are concerned about climate change prefer the residential solar program.
Thus, there is a core group interested in community solar, potentially expanding solar adoption in Rhode Island. However, more communication is needed to convey how community solar may benefit renters and LMI households it is designed to attract.
- Suchandra Basu, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics, Rhode Island College